Saturday, March 3, 2018

Fairy Tale Oscar Watch 2018

One thing you may have missed in the all the Oscars advertising hype:
Best Picture is (very likely) between two fairy tale related films:
"The Shape of Water" and "Get Out".

The 90th Academy Awards  have quite a large representation with regard to folklore and fairy tales this year. With the Beauty and the Beast-like The Shape of Water up for a slew of awards (13!), including Best Picture and Best Director, the 'flipped' Beauty and the Beast/Bluebeard thriller/horror Get Out also up for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay (4 in all), the not-at-all-revolting Revolting Rhymes putting fairy tales front and center in the short film category, Disney's live-action Beauty and the Beast getting noms for costume and production design, and the highly folkloric Coco up for best animated feature, fairy tales are likely to be a strong theme at the awards show this year. 

There's a good possibility there will be lots of water and beast type imagery, musical numbers, spoofs and jokes...
Illustrator Yoshitaka Amano (famous for character design of Final Fantasy) created a collaborative art piece for The Shape of Water, directed by Guillermo del Tor. Amano commented "I imagined he wraps himself in his cloak of water".
(Click for full size)
Fairy tales and fantasy have been in high demand the past year, meaning that in a year of great social unrest and confusion in the US (and inevitably, due to being a major world power, the rest of the world), fairy tales (and fantasy) are being turned to for many and varied reasons. They're a source of distracting - and positive - entertainment, they're used as a method for processing confusion and challenges and as a medium for expression for hope, anger, despair, and a call to change. From newly-desperate wishes for a happily-ever-after in a time of extreme difficulty and stress for many, to reflecting on simple truths that can cut clearly through a swath of fake news, to a beacon of creative inspiration that connects to human truths, fairy tales are surfacing everywhere. Fairy tale themed ads on TV tend to be split between sorting truth from fiction and being an inspirational element of hope despite various circumstances. Fairy tale based books, while always prolific, this past year have been hitting the bestseller lists when exposing their teeth, their dark underbellies and their smart, wily and take-no-prisoners heroines. 

Fairy tale films, in particular those with a happy ending, have caught the imagination and attention of the general public. While a film like The Shape of Water would be considered excellent at any point in history, we believe it's appearance at this time, has helped boost its profile, as this is the type of triumphant story of love winning over all odds, and the little people beating 'the big machine' that has resonated so strongly. It's the inspiration - and reassurance - people are searching for. Once again, a film's popularity has risen to meet its excellence in filmmaking, and it's a joy to see that being recognized at the Academy Awards - doubly so because its not at all shy about its fairy tale roots.

Here's the rundown of fairy tale and folklore-related films that are in the running, and for which category:

Film: The Shape of Water
Fairy Tale/Folklore Tie-ins:
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • The River God of the Amazon (Brazilian folklore meets The Creature From the Black Lagoon/Gill-man pop culture/urban legend)
  • The silent heroine/hero and those keeping secrets [ATUs: 451 (eg. Six Swans), 442 (eg. Old Woman in the Forest), 533 (eg. Goose Girl),  945 (eg. Princess Who Couldn't Laugh/Speak), 923 (eg. Love Like Salt), and The Little Mermaid/Undine/The Fisherman and His Soul]
  • There are even parallels that can be made with Sleeping Beauty (ATU 410) 
  • There's even a little of the Moses story - both fishman and found in a river, grows to become savior of enslaved people, *spoiler* (highlight to view) disappears behind a wall of water to destiny *spoiler over*
Nominated for:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director
  • Best Actress
  • Best Supporting Actress
  • Best Supporting Actor
  • Best Original Music Score
  • Best Original Screenplay
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Costume Design
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Production Design
  • Best Sound Editing

Oscar Favorite? Yes - especially for Best Picture, Best Production Design and possibly Best Director

Film: Get Out
Fairy Tale/Folklore Tie-ins: Beauty and the Beast, Bluebeard
Nominated for:
  • Best Picture
  • Best Director
  • Best Original Screenplay
  • Best Actor

Oscar Favorite? Yes - contender for Best Picture, Favorite for Best Original Screenplay (Note: this film appears to have Maria Tatar's vote)

Film: Revolting Rhymes
Fairy Tale/Folklore Tie-ins: 
  • A mix of classic fairy tales
  • Red Riding Hood
  • Snow White
  • Three Little Pigs
  • Cinderella
  • Jack and the Beanstalk (etc)

Nominated for: Best Short Film (Animated)
Oscar Favorite? Yes

Film: Disney's Beauty and the Beast (live action)
Fairy Tale/Folklore Tie-ins: Beauty and the Beast (Villeneuve as well as Disney's animated classic)
Nominated for:

  • Best Production Design
  • Best Costume Design

Oscar Favorite? No

Film: The Breadwinner
Fairy Tale/Folklore Tie-ins: Afghan storytelling and fables
Nominated for: Best Animated Feature
Oscar Favorite? No

Film: Coco
Fairy Tale/Folklore Tie-ins: 
  • Mexican Day of the Dead/Land of the Dead
  • Mexican spirit animals
  • Dante (dog's name)
  • Aztec gods
  • Alebrijes (Mexican folk art imaginary creatures - newish 'lore' dating back to 30's)

Nominated for:
  • Best Animated Feature
  • Best Music (Original Song)

Oscar Favorite? Yes - both for Best Animated Feature & for Best Song

Fairy Tale Bonus of the Day:
Check out this wonderful essay by Dr. Jeana Jorgensen:
This essay (available to read online for free) explores the use of silence in fairy tales, for both female and male heroes, discussing the many aspects of silence/mutism (voluntary, non-voluntary, tasks, spell-breaking etc) and looks at the variations from different cultures and eras.
Highly recommended!

In that vein, we bring you a timely reinterpretation of Oscar statues for a group of people long silenced in Hollywood: women. These re-visioned statues were created this year by A-list artists, especially in the wake of the #MeToo era. (If only we could see more of these on the red carpet as opposed to the 'casting couch' statue, that appeared days before the Oscars*, making a similar, but very differently focused, statement.)

The Oscar Statues Reinterpreted by A-list Artists for the #MeToo Era

*Only to be removed two nights before due to inclement weather. Reports are that it's unlikely to be reinstalled in time for the Academy Awards for the same reasons.


  1. Nice informative post. Good to see a lot of nominations in this genre.

  2. Thanks for sharing such a very informative post.